Yesterday, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario released a report called Laying Siege to the Last Line of Defence. It concluded that Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources has failed to implement the province's Endangered Species Act (ESA). The much lauded legislation was supposed to protect species like American badgers, monarch butterflies, woodland caribou and more than 200 species that are at risk of extinction in the province.
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The Commissioner shares our conclusion that a controversial regulation that came into force this summer has greatly weakened the Act. The ESA originally mandated that companies operating in the habitat of species at risk had to, in most instances, improve a species' habitat. The regulation lowers these requirements to merely mitigating adverse impacts — basically minimizing the havoc they wreak — effectively giving a free pass to the forestry, mining and aggregate industries.
As noted in the Toronto Star today, more than 50 scientists recently stood up for Ontario species by writing a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, outlining concerns about the regulation. As one scientist, Professor Dennis Murray from Trent University, notes, "Why bother listing species when their protection status can simply be waived away when they become inconvenient to development?"
Ontario's Endangered Species Act was passed in 2007 and was recognized internationally as a gold standard in species legislation. We hope our elected officials are listening as Ontarians stand up for species. As the Environmental Commissioner noted, if the Endangered Species Act was gutted through regulation, then there is always the hope that it can be mended through regulation, too.
Want to help ? Take action by contacting your local MPP and letting them know that Ontario's endangered species deserve better.